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Labour Party faithful want Brown to quit

Prime Minister Gordon Brown should step down as leader of the Labour Party before the next election, according to a majority of party members and supporters questioned in a poll published today.

Six out of 10 of those polled by the independent Labour website LabourList.org said the party must have a new leader before the next parliamentary election, due by June 2010.

Support for Brown has crumbled in a growing scandal over expenses claimed by members of parliament for everything from bath plugs and pornographic films to nappies and horse manure.

For the poll, LabourList questioned 1,060 people between Monday and Friday last week.

Alex Smith, editor of LabourList, said it was a further sign of "grassroots dissatisfaction" with Brown, a former chancellor who replaced Tony Blair in June 2007.

"Brown will need to show clear and decisive action if he is to win back support," Smith said in a statement.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson, a former trade union leader, is the favourite to replace Brown, according to the poll. He was the top choice for 38 per cent of those questioned, with deputy party leader Harriet Harman and Foreign Secretary David Miliband tied in second place on 10 per cent.

Critics have accused Brown of showing a lack of authority over the expenses furore and allowing his rival David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, to set the agenda on restoring public confidence in the system.

However, both parties have lost support in the past month. A poll for the Daily Telegraph newspaper showed support for the Conservatives had fallen six points to 39 per cent, with Labour down four on 23.

Support for the smaller parties, such as the UK Independence Party and British National Party, rose by nine points compared with the previous month.

Political analysts will be watching to see if those increases are translated into votes at local and European elections in Britain on June 4.